Minneota wins Class 1A volleyball title over Medford
On paper, Minneota’s 25-20, 25-14, 25-11 victory over Medford in the Class 1A championship match on Saturday had a ho-hum look to it.
After all, the No. 1-seeded Vikings were making their 12th state tournament appearance and playing in their sixth championship match since 2001.
Tiny Medford, halfway between Faribault and Owatonna along Interstate Hwy. 35, was unseeded, unheralded and somewhat unknown.
The result at Xcel Energy Center was predictable, even expected, but that didn’t make it any less impactful for either team.
Minneota coach Hayley Fruin, who played for the 2006 state championship team, had expressed a desire to see her team have the same experience she had.
“Both moments were special,” Fruin said. “But I don’t remember being this nervous.”
Having played in, and lost, the 2017 final, the Minneota players substituted determination for discomfort and played a match befitting a championship team. They outlasted Medford in the first set, then won the second and third handily.
“We weren’t as nervous as last year,” said setter Morgan Kockelman, who had 41 set assists in the match and 132 in the tournament. “We were ready to go.”
On the other side, the experience was enough of a reward for Medford coach Missy Underhill and her players. Before this weekend, playing for a state title never crossed their minds.
“We came in as underdogs, not expected to do anything,” Underhill said. “I don’t know that at any point we thought of going to the state tournament, let alone getting to play in the championship game.”
Underhill acknowledged that the moment overwhelmed her team.
“Minneota was here last year. They’ve had that pressure. We didn’t, and it kind of broke us down a little bit,” she said.
Her players, however, remained awestruck at achieving so much more than expected.
“My goal at the beginning of the year was to get to [the section finals in] Rochester at least once,” senior Rachael Luebbe said. “I didn’t ever dream of getting this far. This has been surreal.”